Friends of Orphans (FRO)

Pader, Northern Uganda

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Volunteer

Volunteer for FRO - no matter where you live

FRO accepts both local and international volunteers. For more information email us at: info@frouganda.org

Messages from Previous Volunteers:
William Meeker:

Summer 2007

"I traveled to northern Uganda’s Acholiland in summer of 2007 as part of my graduate studies at American University’s School of International Service.  I planned to work with Friends of Orphans (FRO) and conduct research for a study on reintegration of formerly abducted persons.  At that time, I had no idea  that working with FRO was going to be one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.  As an NGO started and operated by Acholi, FRO has strong ties to the local communities and has the ability to operate on a unique level with program beneficiaries – as friends, partners and family.  As a small organization, each member of the staff (including interns) take part in meaningful activities to contribute to program goals.  From training-for-trainers on peacebuilding & HIV/AIDS home-based care to conducting needs assessments of orphans and vulnerable children in IDP camps, my time with FRO was deeply meaningful and proved to be an invaluable learning experience.   I am deeply indebted to Ricky, Francis, Phillips, and John, for enabling me to gain so much exposure to the region’s cultures, facilitating my research and allowing me to do my small part to help those in need."

Best, WIll


Jacqueline Bhabha:

Summer 2007

The Harvard University Committee on Human Rights Studies was pleased to have the opportunity to place Leah Zamore, an undergraduate at Harvard, as an intern with FRO. I realize how demanding it is, on hard pressed resources of time and energy, to supervise students, and I am very grateful to you for agreeing to do this. I hope the experience was productive and useful for Friends of Orphans and would welcome any feedback that you may have. Leah has reported that her experience was both personally and intellectually enriching, and has recommended that we continue to include your internship program in our listings. Thank you very much for crafting such an enjoyable and rewarding program for our student. We look forward to placing human rights interns with you in the future. Many thanks again, and best wishes.

From: Jacqueline Bhabha Executive Director University Committee on Human Rights Studies Harvard University


Gabriel Wallis

August 2006

I spent a number of weeks working with FRO in Pader District, Northern Uganda .  My time spent there allowed me to experience first hand the severity of the situation as well as the great work that FRO and Ricky (FRO’s founder) are doing there to alleviate some of the suffering.  The situation in Northern Uganda is a topic that has been written about many times by people with a knowledge of the area that far exceeds mine so for now I would like to concentrate on how Ricky and FRO are helping improve the situation. Ricky is a former child soldier who escaped to start a new life devoted to helping others do the same.  Traveling with Ricky was always a humbling experience (albeit a time consuming one) as every few hundred meters we would be stopped by someone wanting to shake Ricky’s hand and thank him for FRO’s work.  This work includes building cattle and pig pens to house livestock given to the community so that the community itself had the means to support their most needy, providing a workshop, trainer and materials so former child soldiers can be given a trade, paying for the schooling of some former child soldiers and promoting peace in the community.  These are all of obvious value to the community as demonstrated by the reaction that seeing Ricky provokes and anything that you can do to support it will have a direct affect on these people’s lives.


Carys Hughes:

"Friends of Orphans staff were incredibly helpful in supporting my research, they responded to emails quickly, provided pre-departure information that certainly made me less nervous, picked me up at the airport and supported me in my month in Uganda." "Francis was an excellent help in conducting my research both in Setting up interviews and meetings as well as providing translations services."


Dr. Steve Tharakan

2010 | Sports for Development and Peace

In 2010 I spent two months with FRO on behalf of Coaches across Continents. This was part of my fellowship year (“Mercator Fellowship on International Affairs”). During one year I was able to deal with the reintegration of war affected children through sport (“sport for development and peace”). As a football for life skill coach my colleague Ivan and I conducted daily football trainings and games with the students of FRO. Through football games we delivered messages on HIV/AIDS, Conflict Resolution, Female Empowerment and Health and we made sure that they had a lot of fun during the sessions. I have learned a lot during my stay in Pader. The good relationship to the students and staff of FRO helped me to learn more about their difficult and challenging situation as well as about their needs. Ricky and Francis took me to the field and showed me that the support of FRO goes far beyond the existence of a vocational school. I was impressed by the outreach FRO’s work has. In addition during the two months in Pader I was able to gain an insight into the Acholi culture.” The munus. I definitely will see how I go back to Pader. Click here to learn more about the Games and Sports for Peace Development Program>>

Greg Ebersole

I enjoyed my visit with Ricky and FRO. I appreciated the time they spent showing Tony and me around and the visits in the IDP camps. I was able to take some amazing and important photos. I think about the people I saw and met in Uganda often and wonder how they are. I often wonder if many of the people in the IDP camps have been able to go home yet or if they even have a home. I hope I can return to Uganda some day and see the progress that the Friends of Orphans have brought to the country.


Jason Collodi

I first visited Friends of Orphans in the summer of 2005. At the time their budget was quite small but I was very impressed how they committed all the resources they had to help the people of Pader district. On my second visit, twelve months later, this was still true but the project had grown considerably...a true testament to the energy, drive and focus of the organisation. Indeed the two months I spent with them last summer was a real inspiration and a gift - to be able to witness and help such engaged and dedicated development work.


Jonathan. P Friday:

July 21, 2006

We are now in Gulu Town of Gulu District in Northern Uganda. We spent yesterday traveling and unfortunately didn’t get here until the evening. So we have only one day to meet with groups here – we plan to meet with the director of the peace studies program at Gulu University and possibly a couple of other groups. We spent 3 days in Pader Town of Pader District - Pader District and town were created in 2001 and they used to be a part of Kitgum District. Pader Town was at one time considered the epicenter of violence in the conflict so since its creation, until recently, the district has been unable to develop very much. The town is more of a township and is surrounded by Pader Town IDP (internally displaced person) camp. In fact, we were staying behind FRO’s office in Pader Town in a motel of sorts, and directly behind us was part of the camp. I think the camp’s population is around 28,000. The camps are a sad place but not too different from the displaced communities of Jinja except for the building structures. People are idle but many are conducting some economic activity, mostly in the form of selling agricultural produce, which includes production and sale of local gin. There are many children with potbellies from malnutrition and who WAIL when they are upset. This to me was the saddest part. However, people are still living their lives and trying to maintain – there may be more hope than you’d expect. These people are the epitome of resilience, especially the women. We also visited Lira Palwe Camp, about 20 minutes from town, and met with beneficiaries of FRO’s programs there. The road to Pader alone tells you that the District has been marginalized – only a skilled driver could manage it. It is covered with potholes and there are whole chunks of the road missing, so while driving on it FRO’s driver was constantly swerving and shifting gears. The truck didn’t have the best shocks, so needless to say this leaves on soar, especially since half the people traveling there are in the back of pickup trucks. FRO was the first group to use the roads leading to Pader in 2004 when it was till very dangerous and its staff all has stories of near ambushes from the LRA. All of FRO’s staff is from Pader because they are the only ones who have been unafraid from the start to work there. Fortunately, it is much safer there now, although there is still not running water or electricity there although other Northern Districts have it. Through discussions with FRO and what they showed us we learned a lot of the latest developments about the situation. One example is that the World Food Program (who has been the only org. providing foodstuffs in mass) is continuously reducing its supply of food provided to the camps to encourage people to move out of the camps to farm – the policy of beginning to move away from the camps, ‘decongestion’, is a policy that many NGOs and groups have been advocating but it is a slow process since people are still afraid of the LRA (which is now much weaker than its ever been). I was very impressed by FRO’s work in the North – Jen and I learned a lot about grassroots organizing. FRO has an elected committee in each camp in Pader District which is made up of 5 camp members who do the ground work for them. For instance, the committees identify the most vulnerable people in the camps, such as orphans living in child headed households or HIV/AIDS victims, to become the beneficiaries of various sponsorship and empowerment programs. Also, FRO is planning to train the committees in human rights monitoring (something largely ignored during this conflict) and in HIV/AIDS care. The committees, along with local government reps, have identified families in the camps which are most heavily affected by HIV/AIDS and which it will train in how to care for family members that are HIV positive. In this way, families are empowered to care for their own more effectively. THIS is grassroots development. FRO also has a vocational training center in Pader Town Camp where it conducts tailoring training for child mothers (mostly former abductees) and carpentry training for formerly abducted men and boys. The projects are supported by the European Union. So far, the first group of people trained has graduated and were given start up kits which included equipment to help them start their own businesses. The biggest challenge is funding to provide a sufficient amount of materials in order to get beneficiaries started though. FRO is adamant about empowering people to help themselves – they say they give people 25% and they have to do the rest, which makes sense in order to truly make people self sufficient. The problem that FRO has found is that international NGOs, although doing some good work in the North, sometimes make it harder for smaller CBOs to do their work. For example, intl NGOs have paid the committee to do ground work for them and this sets expectations for FRO to do the same when it does not have the capacity to do so. This is only some of their work – they also do peace building exercises, sports and games programs for the children they sponsor, they plan to help some people start piggeries and poultry farms, and help identify the most vulnerable IDP camp members for other groups. They work closely with many other CBOs in Pader and there is a strong CBO network there in which groups support each other and work together.

Conclusion: Being in the North has only strengthened my conviction that grassroots groups are the ones doing the best work. Only they truly know how to benefit their communities in a sustainable or even entrepreneurial way. They and their families have been affected by the war and they are major stakeholders in their work. International NGOs and groups should support their work rather than trying to come in with their own ideas and projects.

I hope that our internship program can accomplish this. I have been thinking about sending interns to the North as well – hopefully the security situation there will continue to improve, because if you want to learn about sincere grassroots development, this is where it is. FRO’s biggest challenge is capacity building – there is not even an internet café close to town and they don’t have updated computers, equipment, etc. If we could find interns to assist which some of this, they would greatly improve their capacity to find funding for projects.

But again, interns would only assist in grassroots projects and learn from them. People here are more than capable of improving their situation, they just need a little assistance. I have been thinking about a name for the program as well – ‘Uganda Grassroots Development Internship Program’ – I think it’s a unique concept and now that we have many sites all over Uganda to potentially send interns, it could attract a wide array of students in different fields of study.